Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Wednesday applauded directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on audit of accounts of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remedial Project (HYPREP).
Uyi Ojo, the Executive Director of the foremost environmental Civil Organisation, gave the applause at the official presentation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment report and HYPREP’s performance scorecard to newsmen and members of its affiliates in Benin.
Our correspondent reports that the HYPREP is an agency charged with the cleanup of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta states since its inception in 2016.
Uyi urged the president never to allow the directive to go the way of a similar one ordered into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This audit, he said, was currently in a long-drawn-out process on the work of the commission.
The executive director noted that apart from the accounts, an audit of the cleanup and remediation work carried out under the project should also be conducted by an independent body.
According to him, if the Nigerian government, the Ogoni people and partners are going to request the international community to support the continuation of the project, there must be transparency and accountability in the way the initial $1billion fund was utilised.
“The payment of $1 billion was for cleanup and remediation in the first five years in a cleanup that will last 25-30 years.
“The agreement between the Federal Government and Shell Petroleum Development on one hand, and the Ogoni community on the other hand, was for the contributing stakeholders to pay $200 million yearly for the initial five years.
“But for four years after the project was launched, only $360 million has been paid as confirmed by the NNPC during a public hearing at the House of Representatives in Abuja in 2020.
“There is no update on whether further transfers had been made for 2021 and 2022,” he said.
The ERA/FoEN boss also urged stakeholders to remain vigilant to ensure that the directive did not become counterproductive and an unwelcome distraction from the remediation and restoration work that should take place in Ogoniland.
ERA/FoEN chief also commended the appointment of Ferdinand Giadom, as the new Coordinator of HYPREP, describing it as a round peg in a round hole.
The new coordinator, he noted, was an integral part of the UNEP team that conducted the Ogoni environmental assessment study.
He called on the new coordinator to deliver HYPREP from the brink of disaster, rekindle the hope of the people of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta people that had allegedly been dashed by the previous coordinators.
Ojo expressed regret that since 1993, over 4,000 Ogoni patriots had paid the supreme sacrifice, with several others becoming internally displaced or refugees in exile.